Designer: るりるり (ruri ruri)
Artist: るりるり (ruri ruri)
Publisher: るりるりゲームズ (ruri ruri games)
Times Played: 7 on a purchased copy
As I explore my unplayed るりるりゲームズ (ruri ruri games) titles, working on translations and adding games to the boardgamegeek database, I remembered this solitaire trick-taking title. I had first tried to learn how to play around the holidays last year, but was stumped on a few bits in the rules -including important pieces, such as how to win or how a trick is resolved.
The rules for るりるり games are always quite short, but that’s partially because of the terse manner in which they’re written and a lack of redundancy. As an example, the rules for card play simply say “May follow”. It is assumed to some degree that you know this means that the start player chooses a card to play, and then each player in turn also chooses one, with the highest ranked card, regardless of suit winning. In the case of 悪霊退治, even that last part must be implied, as the rules don’t specify how to determine a winner.
(There’s also a certain acknowledgment I feel compelled to make here towards the concept of games that, with purpose, haven’t fully fleshed out the corner cases or more significant parts of the rules. While we’re aways off from such a Sol LeWitt Conceptual Art game making a debut at GenCon or Spiel, I have purchased several such games in the last year. This is all to say that I don’t take it as a given that the rules will be complete, nor is it necessarily a pockmark.)
I have the rules for one other solo trick-taking game, and it feels…like a “Solitaire” game -that is, as you’d use the word in a casual setting and were referring to Klondike. It feels related to that niche, accessible and traditional. Almost a folk game.
This, uh, is something different. It feels much more modern and designed.
It has cards you need to satisfy (e.g. 4 cards from one suit; 3 cards with the same rank). It has cards whose suit can be seen on the back. You start with only 2 colors in the deck. You add a 3rd to the shuffle for the second hand, and a 4th for the third.
It’s a treasure in innumerable ways.
るりるり (ruri ruri) is up to 68 published designs now, but only 1 was in the boardgamegeek database when I picked this one up in 2019. At the Spring and Fall Tokyo Game Markets for the last few years, るりるり has released a box of trick-taking games. (In addition to these sets, there are a number of other releases, sometimes dexterity in nature, sometimes abstract, and almost always with jaw-droppingly creative components.)
The cards for the game are printed on an inkjet printer, glued to a backing, and come in penny sleeves. The game comes in a plain white box that has been hand cut, scored, and stapled, with a sticker attached showing the game’s name and art. It all radiates with love and the paucity of affectation is endearing.
Each of the Trick Taking Sets includes a number of rule sets, some using the same components, and some not, but there will be 2-5 games included. In this case there are 3: one is a banana themed game that toys around with bidding in a creative way; one is a dexterity game where you need to pick up an object with a multi-colored string, and different anchor locations will reward you with different points (the colors of rope you are allowed to use is determined by patterns you make by aligning cards you won in tricks.)
This is the third.
Thematically, there are some demons or whatever evil trying to come up from whereever those kinds of things reside and you need to seal up the opening; specifically, you need to complete 5 of the seal cards. (They are things such as: two cards from each of two suits; or any 5 cards.)
You play against a face-down deck of cards, representing the Demon’s hand, and they’ll always play the top card (which you know the suit of, as the cards show the suit on the back). If you win, one or both of the cards can be added to one of the “seal” cards that need satisfied. Or, set them aside to be shuffled into the next hand. Or, remove them from the game.
At first, nothing happens when you lose a trick. Almost more creatively, something happens when the Demon leads certain colors (yellow has this effect, blue has this other.) In practice, what that means is that you may fiddle a bit with which tricks you want to win, trying to finesse which tricks the Demon leads. If the Demon leads yellow, you’ll bury one of your seal cards and reveal a new one. Blue? Add another seal card that must be closed before you can win. Red? Well, you discard your highest ranked card.
Once all 4 colors are in the game, your descent accelerates, as something does happen when the Demon wins a trick: the highest card from the trick is removed from the game. Oh, and those leading effects haven’t ceased.
Play continues round after round until all face up seal cards are complete, or you’ve determined that your fate is sealed in a different way, and you won’t be able to complete them.
So there’s, like, a lot going on here.
The play experience is shaped by the existential doom of adding the red cards, and knowing that the blue cards are arriving prior to that. Your first hand of green and yellow cards is shaped, at least for me, by the deck deconstruction fears of hitting the precise density of cards you want leading into the second.
The deck-building aspect here is interesting, as while you aren’t buying any new cards, you’ll forcefully accept 9 new cards next shuffle. At once! What’s the rate of change of acceleration? Jerk. At the end of the second hand, it happens again. Jerk.
It’s not just the sudden arrival of so many new cards into the mix, but it’s the percent. It may be around 50% of the cards are this new suit. Is that what you want?
…and that’s the framework that defines each hand. You are making your own bed. I imagine the ideal scenario is to place yellow cards onto the seals, as it removes them from circulation, preventing their effect from triggering. You’ve also prevented them from triggering in future rounds.
But how to do it with the hand before you? If you have some of the harder seal cards out before you, such as 4 of a kind, do you jockey the winning and losing in order to have the Demon lead yellow so that you can swap it out?
If you do win a trick and it does have 2 yellow cards, what if they are only par for the seals? Could they be better? Do you remove them from the deck because you have the seal cards you want. Do you leave them in the deck because it decreases the likelihood of blue cards leading.
Any what about the numbers? If you commit a high-ranked 8 or 9 to an x-of-a-kind card, those will be harder to complete in later rounds, as the red cards start removing them from your hand, and a lost trick may remove them from the game. Might not want to commit a 1 or 2, as your control over directing their rank-mates’ placement from your hand is less confident than a higher valued card that could…win a trick. So when you’re deciding if you want to exile a trick that has a yellow 3 and 7, you’re also looking at the rank distributions and what you’ve previously placed on seal cards and which ranks it means are still available for the x-of-a-kind cards.
That’s just the yellow and green hand.
So you add the blue cards.
Now you’re thinking the same things, but with another color in the mix and red approaching fast. You don’t want all of these blue cards, but the more you remove, the higher the density of red cards.
The game does limit the blue cards’ effects to only triggering twice, so you’ll have at most 2 additional seal cards, and, as a practical matter, the yellow cards effects are limited, as you won’t cycle a seal card that already has a card committed to it. I’m finding that I may make it to the end of the first or second hand without the Demon leading blue, and just a few cards short on my 5 seals. But it won’t end that way. It may take 3, 4, or 5 hands for the game’s outcome to collapse, but 7 seal cards is probable.
If, though we just established that it’s a “when”, the new seal cards are presented, how well did you make your bed? Thinking again about the x-of-a-kind cards, are you in a position to even find a pair? Geez, how can I get the Demon to lead a yellow card.
My thanks to imagon and Yuto for helping me with the translation for this. I am grateful and would not have been able to play it without you!
This is the first るりるり game that I’ve successfully played, and I’m excited to find out what other treasures they’ve made. I checked my trick-taking taxonomy spreadsheet and don’t know of any other title that does a few of the twists here, and they give the game such an experiential arc. (To be thorough: Triumvirate has player’s choosing to remove certain cards from the distribution at different points in the game, and Fertessa’s upcoming Wicked & Wise starts without one suit in the deck or any face cards, but the cards are bought throughout the game and filtered in. Are there others with this intentional removal of cards from the game or where additional suit(s) are added to later rounds?)
The drama that unfolds over the three to four hands here feels unique among trick-taking games. There’s nothing quite like the temperate approach of the green/yellow hand, the rising tension of the blue cards, and the crescendo and cymbal crashes of the red cards erupting.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it!
I like it. James Nathan
Not for me…